Luckily, I had the chance to return and be reminded of just what it was I had been missing all this time. You see, I had run off to one of those places that you celebrate diversity, and generally tend to dip into nothing less than actual discourse where the central theme isn’t about if you’re going to burn in hell fire for whichever set of sins X church has assigned itself to believing in. Anyway, this weekend my family and I decided that because I wasn’t going to be sticking around town for very long [I got very lucky and had a friend who could get me a summer job] that we should go out and spend some time together before I take off. As such we went to the Tennessee Tourist Trap, or as outsiders call it… Gatlinburg.
Now, I’ve grown up in a city that prides itself on sucking poor people on their way to Atlanta into a rather poorly drilled cave, or collection of rocks and telling them that it was well worth their $40+ to get in and be guided around by a local high schooler, so if there is one thing I’m familiar with, it’s the nature of the tourist industry. But just to the north of Chattanooga, is another money gathering black hole known as Gatlinburg. The basic concept of this place is that of a secluded little village that is harbored away in the mountains and allows you to really just kind of experience village life and the great joys of a wintertime camping retreat or community. The reality of course is that it has a profit model that would make Mickey Mouse and Six Flags weep. See unlike a theme park where you pay one upfront cost to ride all the delightful little attractions, Gatlinburg has broken that nonsense right down and made them all separate attractions, and then sprinkled some overpriced gimmicks in between so that while you’re not looking at a stuffed black bear, you can be feasting away on “Authentic Tennessee food” (by which of course we mean, seafood, and cattle based products; neither of which are actually specialties of Tennessee). This whole little scheme is capped off by constructing reasonable homes for winter and summer vacations [suck on that Florida] where the tourist can go down and have a cozy little cabin surrounded by the most delightful forms of woodland critter. Once these homes have been constructed, you mark up the rental price to somewhere near 200 / day and you sit back and count your cash piles. This whole little scheme has served Gatlinburg quite well, and it has led to it becoming a far less secluded city, rivaling some of the major cities I visit on a yearly basis for traffic congestion. Now that having been said, my family luckily was smart enough to know some decent human beings in the Tennessee Valley area, so a lot of things that we did in Gatlinburg were either free, or at a severely reduced price, as such we were able to make it up there and spend a day in the area without forking over enough money to buy a small car. In fact I think the largest sum of money we actually spent was likely just on the food [which suffers from tourist-Near-Jack-Up-the-Price-ia] where even the humble McDonalds has managed to hide their dollar menu. And while I could be caught singing Rocky Top and possibly even some Country Roads, I was playing some very close attention to some of the themes that run throughout the town.
Now, you have to remember, that this town is attracting a lot of outsiders who have some pretty strong of what Tennessee is all about before they ever reach the state, as such Gatlinburg will go out of its way to attempt to perpetrate this ideology wherever you go, from the building design all the way to the food and crafts. One of their favorite things is of course to show off all these little wood working shops [as if anyone in Tennessee outside of Gatlinburg actually continues this particular practice] where you can get your named carved into a fish made of pine [awesome I know]. And I suppose while it is a stupid thing to notice, as someone who has been hiding away in a University that is struggling to finally start to reach that secular point, it was strange to actually step back into a place that thinks that a cross with the words “John 3:16” is just an awesome little piece of artwork. This of course is the same town that pretty much defines what it is to make Christmas more about capitalism than any religious ideology.
But it didn’t start to get to me, until I realized I was literally just bathing in the stuff, you see another terrible side effect of living in the south is being graced with the now underwater presence of country music that is streaming like a sewage flow out of Nashville. And of course, I don’t care what your taste regarding country music is, but you have to be willing to admit that this stuff takes a lot of its core works from religion. And so, every store I stepped into you would just hear “God Bless America”, or some other patriotic / religious garbage. I think it finally reached a critical point when I managed to get into a little buffet [Wood Grill Buffet] where they had brought in their own country singer to perform badly done versions of popular songs already on the market. Now ignoring the fact that the food quality there was not worth 16$ / person in any way shape or form, it was this constant kind of “Totally Conservative” mentality that made me feel like perhaps I had crossed a border at some point. At least at Purdue there was a liberal idea on campus, in that if I said “Yeah Obama’s doing a good job”, someone might just agree with me, or if I were to say “Socialism isn’t a bad word”, someone would go “Nah, just an socio-economic ideology”. But everywhere I turned every old person and their mother was carrying some kind of little patriotic flag, variation of the eagle, or cross to remind me that I wasn’t in home waters at all.
Also, something else that bugged me, is that little Titanic Museum. Now, apparently you go through and you take up the lives of one of the passengers as you take an interactive tour of what the boat was like just before it went under the ocean taking a few hands with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for educating people about the past and the lessons that can be learned from an event such as the Titanic, I am however, not enthralled when a tragedy is used to propel a profit venture. What irritates me, is that ship isn’t some kind of money wasting museum where we can laugh and talk about the past, it’s a graveyard filled with the corpses of all those who didn’t escape the destruction of that vessel. I guess my problem is what if I created something like “9/11” the museum, where I constructed a replica of the twin towers, and took you through the life of someone who worked there. It’s just kind of sad disgrace to try to make a profit off something like that. What if I made “Hurricane Katrina the Experience: Feel what it was like to be a person living in the 9th ward”
Anyway, check back later, I’m waiting for my dad to get done getting all the pictures off the camera before I can get a hold of them to post, and I’ll have a few pictures or something… because I think that’s what people do.